‘Finding Happiness’ by Natalie R. Black

 

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This is all my fault. I should’ve protected you. I’m your big brother; I’m supposed to look out for you. I was supposed to keep you safe damn it. I can’t even sleep anymore. I don’t want to sleep anymore. Isn’t that the irony? You’ll never wake up again, and now I can’t even close my eyes without seeing you. Seeing your body contorted and collapsed half off the couch that night haunts me every day; as it should, I suppose. Your baby blue eyes lost their innocence as they crystalized to glass and fear sunk in to your shrunken pupils. They say eyes are the window to the soul, and it kills me knowing your final moments were on display for the world to see. Maybe that was my punishment. Your blue lips parted just enough for vomit to drip from the corner of your mouth. God damn it Davey, why?

That should’ve been me instead of you. Instead, I’m still here, and you’re going six feet under the ground. Maybe you should’ve gone to live with dad and Danny. I ruined your life. No, I took your life. How the fuck can I live with myself? Mom can’t even bare to look at me, not like I blame her. I’ve broken every mirror I stared at since this shit happened.

“Dmitri, man how you holding up?”

“Not now Jesse.”

“Look, I’m sorry man. I know it must be hard losing your brother, but you haven’t answered my texts or calls.”

“No fucking kidding. I want to be left alone.”

“Okay, fine, I get it.  Where’s your mom? I’d like to pay my respects to her at least.”

“No idea. She hasn’t talked to me since that night at the hospital, and it’s not like I want to show my face at the house anyway.”

“Okay then. So are you-”

“Damn it Jesse I said leave me alone!”

“Yeah, sure man. I’m here if you need anything though, okay?”

“What? Like you were there for Davey when he hit you up behind my back asking if you could give him some fucking dope? Like you were there for Davey when you ‘hooked him up’ with your friend?”

“Come on man. Don’t act like this is all because of me. He only meddled in the shit, because his big brother tried it first.”

Black pants, black shoes, golden brown floors, wax. The air smells like unscented candles. Don’t pick your head up. Don’t pick your head up. Get a grip D. Keep it together. How can I pretend to keep it together when everything’s falling apart?

Jesse may pretend to be all composed and have his shit together, but that fucker’s no better than me. At least I admit I’m a junkie. He wants to keep lying to himself and pretend he has his shit together, fine. I can at least admit I’m an addicted piece of shit. I can’t even find peace of mind without a fucking needle. How pathetic is that? I wanted to stop. I never wanted to get in this deep. How could I let you do this shit, Davey? Not even out of high school yet, and you’re dead. Just another graduation mom will never get to see.

“Well at least it’s not a double funeral today.”

“Yeah Jack? What would you like?”

“That’s dad to you, while you’re still alive anyway.”

“Like you’ve ever been a dad.”

“You and Davey shut me out, remember? You didn’t even give me a chance to be a better father.”

“And your secretary could’ve been mom number two, huh? We’ll all just sit at the table like we’re the Brady bunch.”

“What happened between your mom and I should have never affected you or Davey. Danny dealt with it just fine.”

“Like hell what you put our mother through doesn’t affect us. Danny’s just an asshole who cares more about himself. Looking out for number one. He wanted to make sure college was paid for.”

“You want to talk about caring more about yourself? Your brother is dead, because you had to introduce him to your friends. You want to talk about the strife I put your mother through? I’m not the one who stole money out of her purse, who cashed in your grandfather’s savings bonds, or sold family possessions just to get a fucking fix. Yeah, she told me everything. Do you not see her? She’s skin and bones. She looks like a zombie out there perched next to your brother’s grave. You want to claim you care about your mother? Prove it. Go to rehab Dmitri. Here, just take a look at this place. Just take the brochure. Just do something with your life.”

“Whatever.”

“Yeah, whatever. I guess, what do I care if your goal in life is to end up in a box buried next to your brother before your 20th birthday. At least one of my kids didn’t turn out to be a disappointment. You go ahead and stare real long at the dirt out there. It’ll be your home before you know it.”

As if I need criticism from that asshole. I’m not going anywhere. I was standing inside this church long before he was. He can leave. He’s lucky his presence didn’t make the place burst into flames.

The stained-glass windows consist of vivid reds, greens, yellows, and blues all swirling together to form a baby Jesus and angels. You were just a baby, and now I sentenced you to the up above. Are you watching me now? Is my baby brother watching over me? Can I even be saved? Why am I standing here right now when your body is nothing but a hollow shell? Religion is a sham, but aren’t I as well?

Who’s touching my bag? As if Jack thinks he has a right to touch my shit or look in my bag anyway? Like he’ll find what he’s looking for. Yeah go ahead, shoot me another demeaning look. That’s right, buddy. Zip my bag back up and leave. Shake your head all you want, at least I didn’t sleep with my secretary and leave my kids high and dry.

I don’t know who he thinks he’s kidding? What? Like, showing up here with some brochure is going to make him some hero? Like he’s the one just trying to help, like some good fucking Samaritan. Fuck him. Like I need help? It’s my life. I’ll do whatever I want. I could get help if I wanted it. I don’t need his help, or his money. It’s my life, it’s my body, and I will do to it as I please. Fuck this. I need some air.

I’d like to think the floor boards creaking after my every step means you’re with me, but I know I’m wrong. I’d like to think you’re watching over me, but I think that’s just the painted windows. For figures etched into glass, their presence feels real and overbearing. Their eyes are hard and judging. I can feel the weight of their rejection. Are they kicking me out of the house of God? I’m just a modern-day Cain, so I guess I can’t blame them.

My bag slung over my shoulder feels like the weight of the world has been placed on my back, or maybe it’s just the weight of one dead body. Am I crazy Davey? Black pants, black shoes, grey gravel; the wind burns my cheeks. Not like I needed a slap in the face. Attending your funeral stings enough.

Get a grip Dmitri, you’re talking to dead people. I guess all your friends are bound to be dead people sooner or later when your answer to everything is something as stupid as drugs. You should’ve taken the intervention more seriously, Davey. I guess we both should’ve. But damn it, I’m not the one laying in a damn box right now. I guess I could be next. I guess I probably will be next. God damn it, mom’s a wreck right now. How could she not be? This poor woman is bawling over your plot. I love my mother. I promised her I would step up and help her after dad left. I don’t even know how it came to this. Hell, I have no idea how I got to be standing in a cemetery staring at your lifeless body in a box. Black, black clothes, black shoes, green grass, brown dirt, and grey stones. I can feel the weight of your corpse on my back and the wind slapping me in the face telling me to get a grip.

“Dmitri!”

“Jayden? Shit dude, I haven’t seen you, in what, a year? How’ve you been?”

“I know. I’m really sorry that this is how we run into each other again. I’m so sorry man.”

“I know.”

“So.” Jayden starts. “How are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” I laugh. I’m still breathing I guess.”

“Dude, that’s not funny. I’m not laughing at least.”

“So the military did really make you a stiff now, huh?”

“I mean it’s kept me out of a box, so there’s that. Look D, I actually don’t mind what I do, and I know it’s kept me out of trouble. You know, you could always be a mechanic in the military, right?”

“Nah, I don’t think so. Military isn’t really the lifestyle I’m looking for.”

“What, stealing from your friends and family to buy drugs that are going to kill you anyway is more appealing? Come on man, talk to me. What happened to you? I mean if there is anybody that would understand, it’s me.”

I look up and meet Jayden’s gaze. The buzz cut is unfamiliar, but the pleading brown eyes, followed by the hunched shoulders, down to the hands shoved in his front pockets all scream he’s the same guy who left a year ago.

“I don’t know. I mean hell, I didn’t plan on getting to this point, but I guess you never do. And I sure as shit never meant for Davey to get involved.

I just, I guess, I was so stressed out when my dad left. I started working three jobs to help mom out. When I had time to relax, I found myself taking in more and more drugs. Smoking weed and popping acid was alright for a while. But then I told Jesse I was sick of acid. It just wasn’t what I wanted to unwind from the bullshit of life. One too many bad trips I guess. As soon as I told him that, he said he could hook me up with something that would give me just what I was looking for. I know we always said we’d never go to heroin, and I didn’t think it would happen. Hell even when Jesse did get the stuff, I just thought once and done. But, it just made everything seem so great. And Davey was already there dabbling in the drugs we were doing. Once I tried H, he wanted a taste. He just turned 17, and I said no. Fuckin’ Jesse just had to go behind my back and ‘hook him up.’

I knew right away, as if that little punk could hide anything from me. After that we were in it together. He knew when I was goin’ for more, and he wanted it too. I couldn’t ridicule him, hell he probably was goin’ through more shit than me. I can’t fucking feel peace without the shit, but I’m used to being a hostile mother fucker. Davey was just a baby.

Stealing all those nice knick-knacks and sentimental shit from my granddad and selling them? That wasn’t me. You and I stole shit all the time. We know better than to steal from family, and I tried telling Davey that. I thought I was protecting him by taking the fall, but in reality, I think I just helped him kill himself.”

“Dude, I know you feel responsible for your brother’s death, but that’s not on you. Yeah, you and I were not good role models, but he was responsible for his own decisions, and you have to be responsible for your own choices in life. So, what are you thinking? I mean maybe you should let this be the act that makes you want to get your life together. Only you can change your life, and you can change it whenever you want. I’m not saying you should join the military and follow my path, like I know what I’m doing in life, but maybe you should at least think about getting clean, for Davey and for your mom. Dude you are a brother to me. I know it’s been awhile since we got to catch up, but you are still my family, and I don’t want to come to your funeral anytime soon either.”

I know Jayden has a point. He was my best friend for so long. It’s hard to believe I fell down this hill without him by my side. Hell, I didn’t even just fall, you came chasing after me and tumbled to your death.

For the first time in eight days mom walks up to me. She looks at me with her tear-stained eyes meeting mine. I can’t help but see your bright blue eyes staring back at me in our mother’s sunken, sleep-deprived sockets, decorated in a sloppy attempt at mascara now running down her face. Her long blonde hair washed for the first time in a week, and she put on the nicest black dress she owned, slightly faded with a few undone stitches at the seam. Our poor mother can’t even afford a decent dress for her son’s funeral, yet Jack’s here in a brand-new, top dollar suit.

I killed my brother, and I couldn’t even help mom afford a nice dress to wear to her son’s funeral. I was supposed to help her out when dad left. I was supposed to help her pay the bills to keep the house. Who would’ve thought I could fuck that up too?

“People are going to be arriving soon,” her voice cracked. We should go inside.”

That’s all she could get out before she started crying again. I wrap my arms around her and Jayden follows suit. I can feel her tears soak into my chest. I can hear Jayden telling her everything’s going to be okay, but my jaw feels like it’s wired shut. I was supposed to help. Now we’re standing in a cemetery staring at your plot, and I can’t help but think I’ve helped enough here.

***

Inside the church, people have already started filing in. It’s a growing sea of black, and I’m overwhelmed by a tidal wave heading towards me with condolences. I want to leave. I’m miserable. All I can think about is how you’re laying in a casket, and frankly the only thing that can help me right now is the very substance that killed you, isn’t that just the bitch of irony?

Everyone keeps watching me, Davey. They’re staring at me tug at my sleeves and rub my hands over my arms. I feel the sweat drip from my forehead and I feel it soak into my shirt. Everyone probably thinks it’s just my nerves, and I’m sure it partly is. But nothing is stinging more than the repeated expression of concern over my weight. Sure, our mother is looking awfully frail herself, but everyone seems to note I have a slightly thinner disposition than her. It probably wouldn’t look so bad, if I had a naturally thin frame, but everyone remembers my broad shoulders and muscular build. Maybe they think it’s because I’m depressed over your death, but I’m sure that’s wishful thinking. Everyone in this room is probably thinking this is my living wake before my own funeral. Well fuck them too.

As if I can stand being in the same room as dear old Jack, let alone the fact I have to stand and sit next to him through this whole ordeal. I can’t stand listening to him accept everyone’s apologies at the loss of his son, as if he gave a fuck about you. He throws on a cheesy smile and thanks them for their words. Mom just can’t keep it together, and Danny just looks like he doesn’t belong here, as he keeps running his hands through his short-black hair, taking deep breaths, trying to figure out where he is. Well I know where I’m at, and it fucking sucks.

They asked me to write a eulogy, but I just couldn’t do it. I was so angry and frustrated when they asked. I mean, I guess I was only thinking about me, like I typically do. A little too late, but now I realize I should’ve sucked it up and came up with something. Mom can’t get through more than a sentence of what she wrote, and now dad thinks he has the right to deliver it. Motherfucker actually starts crying by the end. I don’t know if I believe his tears though. He claimed to care about mom, and he claimed to care about his kids, but his actions never really seemed to agree with his words, and at this moment, those are definitely not his words he’s speaking aloud.

***

Everyone is standing outside in the bitter wind, hovering around a hole in the ground as final words and prayers are spoken. I’m numb to it all. I know people are speaking aloud, but I can’t hear anything. All I can think about is the image replaying in my head of your collapsed, stiff body with lips as blue as your eyes. I couldn’t even get you to the damn hospital in time. I’m so angry with you, and I could kill Jesse if he tries talking to me again before the day is over, but in the end, I know this is all my fault.

I was supposed to help mom. I wasn’t going to let her down this time. Instead, I lost all three jobs, got you killed, and only got mom into more debt. You always know you fuck up when the cops pick you up, but damn you never realize how permanent your choices are until death gets involved. Maybe I would be better off dead. I can’t keep fucking up if I’m not here anymore. Then I wouldn’t be a burden to mom anymore. Jack wouldn’t have to worry about me ruining the family name. If anybody deserves to die shooting up, it’s me. If I could switch spots with you, I’d do it in a heartbeat. If I could go back in time, I would’ve forced you to go live with dad and Danny. Instead, I’m staring at a mound of dirt, realizing there’s no coming back from this mistake.

What if Jayden’s right though. I don’t want to die. I’m only going to be 20 in a couple of weeks, if I make it that long. I want to make it that long, I think. I love you Davey, but I’m not ready to join you yet. I do want my life back, and I want to stop feeling numb and angry at the world. I thought life sucked when I found the beautiful drug, but she’s only made my life worse since she’s entered it. Now I don’t even have you by my side to help me get through it. Then again, I wasn’t even by your side as you died. And I don’t want to be selfish anymore. And I don’t want your death to be what I need to get clean. That seems way too damn selfish. But wouldn’t it be more selfish to let your death go to waste and let it teach me nothing?

I know I need to get clean, but what if I’m not strong enough for that? Withdrawal sucks. I guess dying sucks more. Jayden and I were both in shitty shape beforehand, and he does seem to be doing pretty well for himself now. I could be doing better. I know I could be doing better. I know I’m capable of doing so much more with my life, but I don’t want dad’s help, fuck him. I don’t need him. He doesn’t deserve the satisfaction of bragging to mom how he single-handedly help save my life. I also don’t want to give him the satisfaction of saying he tried to help, but I was too stubborn to take it and died. Maybe I can do it without his help. We were going to do a lot of things without Jack’s help. Shit, I was going to step up and help put you through college without him.

I remember teaching you how to drive. You blew out my clutch in Kmart’s parking lot and thought it was the end of the world. I taught you how to change your oil and change a tire. You never did master quite more than that. You wanted to help rebuild a car with me, so I bought an old fox body. We never did get that accomplished. I guess I always put it on the backburner, because I knew I was going to be doing all the work while you passed me the tools. Right now, I’d be content to have just that.

My shoulder’s nudged, and I pick my head up expecting to see you. Instead, I see Jayden standing next to me. Blue skies, green grass, a mound of dirt, and a lowered casket. I feel my heart in my stomach and Jayden’s hand on my shoulder.

“Your dad caught me before I left. He said you forgot your bag in the row you guys were sitting in, inside. Are you okay?”

“I didn’t forget it. I was gona go back for it. Just didn’t wana bring it out for this. But, yeah, I’m alright. I’m just thinking. Wish Davey was here to talk about it.”

“I know I’m not Davey, but I’m here man. What’s up?”

“I think I just want to go home. I just kinda wana chill out. It’s been a long day, you know?”

“That’s cool. But can I treat you to some food first? I know you’re not going to meet up at your dad’s place where the post-funeral get together is, and I want to make sure you eat something. You know you don’t look good.”

I don’t deserve to be saved Davey. Why did you send me Jayden? I want to go home to cure the itch. I don’t deserve help. I can do this on my own, but I really just want to shoot up once more, and I think I deserved it after this hellish day.

“Alright, I guess we can get something quick to eat.”

***

I know Jayden wasn’t happy that I barely touched my food, but I have been longing for this shit all day. Do you think he knows? Yeah, he probably does. He tried like hell to stay. I pretty much had to shut the damn door in his face. I know he just wants to help, but I think I’m entitled to this one last beautiful feeling before I figure out what I’m doing next.

Mom ripped my room apart after we got home from the hospital, not like I blame her. I’m sure she realized we weren’t keeping any supply at the house considering we shot up elsewhere, but she was having a mental breakdown, and I deserved to take the blunt of the blow anyway she could deliver it.

Mom isn’t home yet. She’s probably still sobbing on Jack’s couch. She never did start dating again after he left her. She’ll definitely be home tonight though, and the last thing I want is for her to walk in on me. I’ve never been sloppy like that, and as much as it pains me to go back to the garage where I found you collapsed on the floor, if I want to do the deed, I have to pay the price. Our mother is so fragile after losing you. If something happens to me tonight, this will be the death of her, I know it. Why am I always so damn selfish, Davey?

Maybe if I would’ve taken my car to the garage that night, I could’ve saved you. The doctors said you were dead for a little while before I found you, but I think they just said that to make me feel better. Pedaling, I feel the crisp air for the first time today. I can’t help but take note of the colors in the sunset. I’m craving bad, but the fact I just buried you today makes me pedal a little slower. Is this the sun setting on my final night? Maybe. Did you think about the possibility of seeing your last sunset before you shot up? Probably not, you knew you had your whole life ahead of you.

***

My arm tingles as I tie it off. I know I shouldn’t be doing this, and the plastic is ratting me out as I unwrap the syringe. I can’t help it; I already feel like a little kid on Christmas morning. Maybe I’ll even see you. I feel the euphoric relief that I wish I didn’t need the damn drug to feel. I feel at ease even though your six feet under the ground and I’m on my way there. I can finally let go of my anger, and the world stops beating down on me.

I feel like a kid who didn’t get that one present he was really hoping to find under the tree. I can only feel good with a needle, and it’s a disappointing state to live in. How the hell did we even get to this point?

I have six unread texts and four missed calls. Jesse and Kayla died tonight. Another bad batch of heroin. I feel sick to my stomach. I really can’t go to another funeral. I don’t want to go to another funeral, and I sure as shit don’t want to have a funeral of my own.

I can’t take this shit anymore, Davey. The room is spinning, and I feel like I’m on unsteady ground. Name something. Name something D. God damn it! I see blood on my knuckles and a whole in the wall. I see the couch my brother died on. Get a grip. I can’t. I need to know your here. I wish my fingers weren’t so jittery as I fumble with the zipper on my bag and reach inside. I latch on to the feeling of plastic, but it’s not your picture. It’s the brochure dad tried handing me at the church. I see the rehab brochure. I see your picture. And I see a lot of texts that say this needs to stop.

Why didn’t Jay pick up? I shouldn’t have called him. This isn’t his problem to deal with. What is the problem? What am I going to do? How did I just shoot up tonight knowing damn well what I already put my mother through? My phone vibrates in my hand. I swear this better not be any more bad news. It’s Jayden.

“Hey Jay.”

“Dmitri! Thank God you answered. Dude it’s 11:30, are you okay? What’s up?”

“No I’m not okay. Can you come meet me at the garage?”

“Where?”

“The damn garage man. That’s where I’m at. Can you meet me here?”

“Yeah, I’ll be right over. Just don’t do anything.”

Just like that he hangs up. Well what he doesn’t know is that I already did do something stupid.

Bloody knuckles, cement floor, black fox body we were supposed to fix, faded blue couch that you died on. Get a grip D.

I hear the garage door grind open, and I see Jayden dressed in basketball shorts with sweatpants thrown on top with shoes slipped on his sockless feet. He apparently thought he was sleeping in bed tonight.

“Do you mind if we just drive around for a bit?”

“Yeah, man. Whatever you want to do.”

He rubs his eyes as we walk back to his car, as if he’s trying to chase the tiredness away. I turn the radio off as we begin driving. My fingers drum a beat on my knee in the silence. I know the drive we’re going on. Jay and I had this long drive we’d take our crotch rockets on. I had every intention of taking you on it, but that never happened. You lost your interest in riding as your craving for drugs strengthened, and my bike got sold to cover my own damn habit.

Jayden never says a word, even after I turn the radio off. I watch him steal a glance at my fidgeting fingers every so often. It feels like I’ve been sitting in the passenger seat for an eternity when I finally let the words pour out of my lips.

“Jesse’s dead man.”

Jayden’s face snaps in my direction with a wide-eye gaze before looking back at the road.  I can’t meet his eyes. I look down at my busted knuckles and restless fingers like they’re communicating some Morse code message.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I say.

“What’s that?”

“That I’m lucky that’s not me. That I’m the stupidest mother fucker you have to know, to go shoot up the day of my brother’s funeral. That it’s only a matter of time before it is my funeral.”

I force my wet eyes to meet his this time. I see the pity in his eyes, and it burns more than I like.

“You are lucky it’s not you, but you’re addicted; you’re sick man. I was actually thinking that maybe if you realized it wasn’t you against the world, then you would also realize this isn’t a losing battle. Do you want to live? Because it’s your life, and it’s in your hands.”

I rest my head against the window and feel the cold against my right temple as I stare out at all the trees whirling by.

“You know my dad’s an asshole, right?”

“Yeah man, I know he’s an asshole, but he made his life choices just like you’re responsible for yours. Everyone gets to decide where they end up in life, whether you own up to it or not.”

“That’s bullshit. I’ll never be a millionaire. I will never be able to travel the world. Hell I will never be a CEO of some bigwig company. Some things you can’t control. Some people are born into an easy life, and others get fucked. That’s reality.”

“Okay, maybe neither of us are going to be millionaires, but if you want something enough, you work and you find a way to make it happen. I have a lot of options in the military to see different parts of the world if that was my passion. You might not be a CEO of some bullshit company, but that’s not you anyway. If you really wanted, you could end up getting your own garage someday, and you’d get paid rather decent to work on cars for a living, opposed to doing it for free, or getting paid to do things illegally.”

“At Davey’s funeral my dad and I got into it. He pretty much told me it was only a matter of time before I was dead too. Says I’m making nothing but mistakes and hurting my mom. Fuck, he was the trendsetter. He hurt mom first. I thought he was going through my bag looking for drugs at the church, but at the garage I found the brochure for this rehab program he wants me to do jammed inside.”

“So what are you thinking? Are you going to do it?”

“I know you’re right. I know I can’t do this on my own, but damn it I don’t want to have to rely on the guy who walked out and thinks I’m just a piece of shit either.”

“Well you’re right too. We’re never going to be millionaires, but you know what? You could use your dad’s funds to pay for rehab. In the end, you are the one who needs to have the commitment and strength to get through the program. And after that, you can move on with your life. I think you owe that much to Davey.”

I know Jayden’s right. I don’t want to have to rely on Jack though. What if he decides he doesn’t want to help me out and pay for the program anymore? At least then it looks like I tried. It’s kind of like karma caught up to Jesse. And maybe everything is a sign. That Jesse’s dead and Jayden’s here trying to help. I wish I could’ve been a better brother to you Davey, and I wish you were still here to get clean with me. I guess I can’t change what’s been done, and I don’t want mom to have to bury a second child. I know Jack thinks I’m not capable of making it through rehab, but damn it I’ll prove him wrong. I’m angry with myself for taking away your shot at life, but maybe that’s just more of a reason to get clean. I have to get my act together and have a life that both of us could be proud of.

I see the stars above; I see the headlights shining on the road ahead. Lights are shining all around, but I’m still swallowed in darkness. I hear the switch of the ignition, and the engine ceases to hum. I see Jayden’s eyes look over at me, and I can imagine the furrowed brow and twisted lips that accompany them. His car door swings open and slams shut. I see a small flame ignite from his lighter and a puff of smoke shortly follows. I can feel his gaze on me through the windshield. I’d rather stay molded to the seat, but his eyes are pressuring me to join him.

This fucking door feels like it weighs 140 pounds, and I’m just not strong enough to push it open. My fingertips are numb and my arms feel heavy; Is that from the drugs or the guilt? Does it really matter? Not really considering whichever it is, it’s all my own damn doing anyway. I see white siding, blue shutters, and windows, one with a familiar duct tape patch job in the middle.

“I see your mom still hasn’t gotten around to fixin’ the window.”

“Ha. No, but I told her I’d pay for it while I’m home on leave right now. It was our dumbasses that broke it.”

“That was a fun night.”

“Yeah, until my mom got home and beat our asses. I thought she was going to make me shovel a six-foot hole in the backyard.”

“It’s hard to believe that night was six years ago already. You know six years has passed since we broke that God damn window, and it’s still broken.”

“It’s just a window. I think our patch job was pretty impressive, anyway. And all good things come with time. It’s getting replaced tomorrow.”

“Yeah, but that window’s still broken. And that window will never be fixed again, because we were careless.”

“I cared a lot about my mom whoopin’ my ass.”

“Yeah, and I cared a lot about Davey.”

“We still patched that window up. And it worked. We might have had to add new tape every once in a while, but it still functioned. It still kept the cold out, kept rain and snow out. It might be missing a piece, but it just became a window with a story behind it. I will always look at that window and think about that crazy night.”

“And I still look in the mirror and see the face of a murderer.”

“Davey was a piece of you, and you’ll never get him back, but don’t put all that guilt on yourself. Davey will always be with you, but he’s by your side and in your heart, not on your back.”

The menthol burns my throat. I don’t know who’s blowing more smoke right now, me or Jayden. I know he has good intentions, but do I? I’ve always been the family fuck-up and I don’t know if I’m capable of another shoddy patch job to cover my messy tracks.

“Wana go chill on the roof like old times?” Jayden asks.

“Don’t you want to sleep?”

“Sleep is for the weak. I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Davey thought he’d do whatever I wanted to. You should be careful before I get you killed too.”

“Yeah, but I’m still responsible for me. I’m not shooting up tonight, or any other night. I picked your ass up, and I stayed in the driver seat. I take full responsibility of my choices and the actions that follow them.”

My heart sinks with each step that creaks. I hear it echo in my ears, and I think the whole world is watching me. I see Jay’s mom sleeping through the cracked door. I guess the whole world is actually sleeping. The world is moving on. The world keeps moving and everyone keeps going about their day. My world crashed and I can’t restart. I guess I can’t rebuild our project car, if I can’t even get my own shit together.

Davey, I know your habit spun out of control way faster than mine. I know you needed more and more than me, and I made excuses for you. I thought I was protecting you, but I should’ve known better. If anybody could’ve talked you into rehab it would’ve been me. I miss you like hell, but it’s nice to have Jayden by my side again. Would Jayden blame himself if I died tomorrow? Probably not. You know what though, I think I’ll be really mad, if I leave our car another un-kept promise.

I see pinks, and oranges swirled together. I see blue sky give way, and I hear the rusty start of sleeping cars. I know who I need to call. It’s only 7:00 a.m. and I really don’t expect an answer, but I better do it now before I lose the courage. My chest pounds with each ring, and I swear the whole neighborhood is waking up to my mess. On the third ring I hear the static on the other end. My voice is lodged in my chest.

“Hello? Dmitri, what’s wrong?”

“I’m ready to do it. To go to rehab. Will you help me set everything up?”

Natalie resides in Slatington, Pennsylvania, and currently works as a professional writing tutor for Lehigh Carbon Community College. She is an emerging writer who focuses on individual struggles as she hopes to create a platform that opens conversations, instills hope for those who need it, and raises awareness to others.

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